Tracts and Fingers [form official site]
The world we live in is marked by disorder and chaos. Few things, if any, are certain. But then there is Type O Negative, the Brooklyn band whose been making a glorious, doom-caked racket for over a decade. With a sense of humor blacker than the clothing that the individual band members wear and a profound distaste and disgust for both humanity and political correctness, Type O Negative never changes with the times the times change with them. Marked by sharp wit and bouts of gloom 'n depression, Type O Negative continues to reward its listeners with what they have come to love and what they have to expect from the Brooklyn doom squad: a nihilistic world view, anthems of sex and death, and a blinding torch of well-placed hate.
It is Type O Negative's gothically tinged metal, reared on a steady diet of Bauhaus and Sisters Of Mercy, which never takes itself too seriously, that has garnered them critical and commercial success. 1993's Bloody Kisses was the first album to achieve Gold and Platinum status in the Roadrunner Records catalog. It's successor, 1996's October Rust, also went Gold, thus solidifying Type O's roots in the sediment of metal. Through it all, bassist/frontman Peter Steele still reminisces about his days as an employee of the NYC Parks Department, still lives in the same basement apartment in Brooklyn, still drives the same car, and still wolfs down TV dinners. And he and his cohorts still make bittersweet, head down hard rock.
Life Is Killing Me is Type O's fifth full-length record, and its first batch of new material since 1999's World Coming Down. In between this opus and World Coming Down, Type O released The Least Worst Of compilation, to tide over fans over! Steele is a towering hulk of a man his biceps could crush your skull like a walnut and he is someone whose fist you would not want to meet the business end of. But when he speaks in that trademark, so-deadpan-he-must-sleep-in-a-coffin delivery, through a thick New York accent, it's like a pearl of wisdom handed down from a man who has lived through it all, seen the seediest underbelly of the human psyche, and survived. Regarding the new album, the aptly named Steele remarks, "When we were writing Life Is Killing Me, I knew I didn't want it to sound like World Coming Down, because I was having quite a few personal problems at the time that album was being recorded and mixed. Because I had distanced myself from the process, too many cooks spoiled the broth. No one was happy and I am the least happy of all. However, failure is not failure if you learn from it and I took an active part in this album. I hope it turns out to be somewhere between Bloody Kisses and October Rust. Because I was wrapped up in my old bullshit during the execution of World Coming Down, I feel that I owe, not just the band, but our fans, some sort of an apology. I am working on trying not to be so selfish, and I am doing the best I can." Since Bloody Kisses and October Rust are true fan favorites, Steele's hope that Life Is Killing Me will redeem him in fan's eyes should become a reality.
Steele admits he did not set out to write out an album that replicated Type O's past works. "That style of songwriting is still in me and I like the songs from those albums, whereas I am less fond of World Coming Down, since it reminds me of things I was involved in at the time." Steele further reveals that staple Type O issues of "self pity," "hatred," "drugs and death," "religion," and "the usual" are all a part of the lyrical tapestry of Life Is Killing Me. He contends that the album is less depressing than its predecessor, with less dirges and different songwriting styles. He elaborates, "There are three types of songwriting: one is hardcore/punk, almost like party punk. The other is the older style of goth-metal that we have always done. The third is a combo of '60s and '80s type of songwriting." He concludes, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, that "Life Is Killing Me is a sonic legacy of past mistakes."
Self-deprecation aside, Steele is forthright and open when discussing his latest creations (or mistakes, depending on who you ask in the band!) Regarding specific songs on the album, Type O chose to cover a song from Hedwig And The Angry Inch musical, to illustrate its infamous sense of humor. "It's about a transvestite who goes in for sex change and the doctors fuck it up. I thought it would be fun to play it live, because we sped it up a little to make more punky." The song "I Like Girls" is Steele's response to homosexuals who try to pick him up. "Whether a man or woman finds me attractive, I take it as a compliment, although I am more flattered when it's a woman. Thanks for the invite, but I like girls.' The song is punky and I am sure that it's going to be misconstrued, so we're going to be prepared." It's apparent that Type O likes to stir up a little shit, and is always ready for the backlash, and equipped with more ammunition than its opponents. Remember, this is the band who, back in the day, answered a crowd's taunts of "You suck!" with "You paid 15 American dollars to get in. Who's the real asshole here?" Indeed, it's wit is Type O's strongest suit of armor.
"Nettie" centers around Steele's mother, while "Above All Things" is about his father. "How Could She?' finds Steele asking all of his favorite female TV characters, cartoon or human, a question. "I mention every single one from Edith Bunker to Judy Jetson, all who I encountered when sitting in front of the TV, eating a TV dinner." 'A Dish Best Served Cold' is self-described revenge anthem.
Type O continues the time honored tradition of producing its own albums at Systems Two in its homestead of Brooklyn, in the interest of avoiding "outside tentacles." Both Steele and keyboardist Josh Silver helmed Life Is Killing Me.. "I want to hear what is going on in my ears, what I hear in my head," says Steele. "I am not talking about the 'voices' I hear. I am talking about getting as close to my goal as possible. Within this band, the four guys are married to each other and the cap is always left off the toothpaste. We don't need a fifth clown coming in. At 41 years old, having been in bands for 30 years right now, I know how to get what I want, musically. Lastly and leastly, there is financial incentive for producing my flesh ourselves, and not just because we can walk away with chump change, but because anyone we'd like to hire would cost half a million dollars. There goes all my drug money for the year. That can't happen."
Steele doesn't cite any new influences on Life Is Killing Me. Other than calling himself an audio plagiarist, Steele admits he still listens to the same music that he always has, such as "early '70s metal, psychadelic '60s, '90s trans-dance shoegazer stuff. It's the basic inspiration comes from my feelings. I'm on a constant search for new and interesting ideas, which I am not usually successful at." When you've got the word "negative" in your band name, it's not surprising that such an attitude pervades Type O. Life Is Killing Me is more grist for the Type O Negative mill, further championing the band's lifelong subscription to the attitude that the glass is not only half empty, but broken and laced with cyanide. Life Is Killing Me's alchemy of sludge metal and chilling gothic imagery and conventions is just what fans and critics have come to expect and to rely on in this chaotic, undefined world. Life may be killing Type O slowly, but the band is alive and kicking with new material for the time being. Thankfully.